The midsize SUV segment is hotter than Phoenix, Arizona these days. Automakers have to have an option that goes above and beyond if it wants to have any chance of being competitive. Among the likes of the Kia Telluride, Mazda CX-9, and Jeep Grand Cherokee L, there’s plenty of available competition. For years, the Nissan Pathfinder stood in the back as an option for most consumers to glance over or for diehard Nissan fans. For 2022, a full redesign changes that, bringing the Pathfinder into the limelight and making it a worthy contender.
Let’s answer a question you probably have right off the bat. Is the new Pathfinder good enough to dethrone the Telluride, which is by far the industry’s favorite? No. For shoppers that aren’t looking for a midsize SUV that’s enjoyable to drive or anything beyond monotonous, the Pathfinder ranks fairly highly based on its available tech features, roomy cabin, and handsome design. Nissan still has some way to go to make a Pathfinder that can play in the big leagues, but the new Pathfinder shows that the Japanese automaker is on the right path.
The 2022 Pathfinder’s design is by far one of the SUV’s greatest strengths. The midsize SUV features an ever so slightly rugged design that’s wrapped in a stylish package. Nissan’s V-Motion grille makes an appearance, and in this application, fits the vehicle incredibly well. Compared to the previous SUV, the new Pathfinder makes a statement.
The Platinum trim we tested is the range-topping model in the lineup, yet it maintains a slight hint of ruggedness that’s found throughout the entire lineup. That’s called harmony. The SUV has relatively small front and rear overhangs, prominent fender flares, a wide stance, and blunt edges. It’s the kind of ruggedness that doesn’t hit you over the head with a bat.
Another nice touch on the Pathfinder are its lights. The C-shaped headlights have a slim portion on the top that act as the daytime running lights, while the bottom portion are the actual headlights. It’s a nice touch. The taillights aren’t much to talk about, but their slim size bring some much-needed contrast at the back.
It’s the Pathfinder’s cabin that takes the largest leap for the 2022 redesign. The SUV moves to having a blocky design that’s almost truck-like in appearance, but is far more modern than the outgoing model. There are a few familial touches, like the shifter, design of the center console, and the steering wheel, but the Pathfinder undoubtedly leads Nissan’s lineup of SUVs for having the nicest cabin.
One of the first things I muttered to myself when sitting in the Pathfinder’s seats for the first time is just how nice the cabin looks and feels. Unless you start poking around, most of the materials feel just as good as they look, which is to say above average. The front seats are supportive and cushioned enough on long drives, but the real star are the available second-row captain’s chairs – a first for the nameplate. While accessing the third row is simple enough, they’re tiny for adults. Kids should be fine for short drives, but I’d feel bad putting teens or pre-teens back there.
The Platinum trim brings some impressive tech features that include a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 9-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless charging pad, a head-up display, and a 13-speaker Bose audio system. For the most part, the Pathfinder’s tech features feel on par for the segment, but they lack the polish you’ll find with segment leaders. The infotainment system’s interface, for example, is easy to use, but doesn’t have the same crisp graphics or sharp design as other SUVs in the class.
Nissan has done a fine job with the Pathfinder’s cabin. It feels more than nice enough for consumers looking for a daily driver for the family. The main issue is that it doesn’t go far enough.
While the Pathfinder’s engine remains the same for 2022, the midsize SUV now comes with a nine-speed automatic transmission instead of a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The change, as far as we’re concerned, is an astronomical one. Most CVTs are awful, droning, failing to get the most out of the engine, and delivering downshifts at a lethargic pace. The nine-speed automatic doesn’t suffer from any of these issues. It’s smooth and unintrusive, which is what you want from a gearbox in a midsize SUV.
Nissan hasn’t touched the Pathfinder’s 3.5-liter V6 engine, so output is still rated at 284 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque. Thanks to the new transmission, the midsize SUV feels plenty peppy around town and on the highway.
Unfortunately, this is where the positives end. There’s nothing to say about the Pathfinder’s handling. It gets around corners safely, but it’s not entertaining. The SUV will get you to work, the grocery store, or to the family cabin, but you won’t be smiling when you get there. At least the Pathfinder’s ride is smooth and all-wheel drive will give you some extra peace of mind when the weather turns for the worse.
With so many consumers purchasing an SUV, Nissan introduced a fully redesigned Pathfinder in the nick of time. The previous-gen Pathfinder was on sale from 2013 to 2020, which isn’t a long time. But in that period, the rest of the midsize SUV class progressed to new heights. It’s like Nissan geared the Pathfinder for Caribou Coffee, while everyone else is working on their gold status at Starbucks. By nearly every measure, the Pathfinder looks like it should line up well against the competition. And that’s because the SUV does. But while others go above and beyond, the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder does just enough. That makes the SUV better than the rest, but just behind the best.